Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CFBA Tour - Offworld

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Offworld Bethany House (July 1, 2009) by Robin Parrish.

Jason sez: Stay tuned for a feature of the book in August, with the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour. Just finished the book, and am digesting what to write!


Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.


"Every Person on This Planet Has Disappeared."

Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are humanity's greatest explorers. They've finished their mission on the red dirt of Mars and now they just want to get back to Earth. To see friends, family, and loved ones. To be home. But even with communication to ground control cut and a perilous landing, nothing could prepare the crew for what they discover when they step foot back on planet Earth. gone.

It's not a dream. It's not a trick. Now Burke and his team have one mission:find out who or what is behind the disappearance of all mankind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CSFF Tour - Bioethics and The Enclave

There's a lot of buzz going on about this month's book, The Enclave. Make sure to check out Becky Miller's blog, as she tracks all of the confirmed posts for the tour at this page.

I really enjoy the CSFF tour because we get some intelligent, creative people who care about faith discussing the books and issues brought up. We often have interesting discussions going on via various blogs that are quite entertaining.

The nature of The Enclave, dealing with scientists at a secretive genetic research complex, lends itself to some serious discussion of issues that are facing us today.

Regarding cloning a child who died prematurely:

"Actually, I consider the whole idea of trying to replace lost loved ones to be futile and misplaced. It might be the same body, but whatever soul God imputes to the child, should she be born, it would not be the same as your [dead] daughter's." (p170).
Another quote on cloning:

"Twenty-five years ago [head of the complex] Parker Swain was obsessed with human cloning, which he saw as a means of attaining eternal life." (p299).

This book may be considered science fiction, but we are not talking about far-future events here. There will soon be many issues confronting humanity regarding cloning, genetic or biologic enhancement, and the ethical dilemmas raised by these issues. Already we are seeing more and more widespread genetic screening of embryos, genetic manipulation of food sources (both plant and animal), and debates related to assisted reproductive technologies (IVF, surrogacy, PGD, etc).

Christians need to be aware of these issues and should have a basic ability to speak into the public square about them, because even if they're not already here, they will be soon. Not all of us can be geneticists or experts on bioethics, but we need awareness.

Literature can be a great vehicle for opening our eyes to such concepts. The Enclave does a good job dealing with the issue of cloning, although it loses some fizzle in the end with the introduction of the laser-beam wielding Nephilim (if that's not a teaser for the book, I don't know what is!). My favorite philosopher to quote regarding these issues is none other than Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: "Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Another book that hits this broad range of topics is My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, where a sibling is conceived as a "savior sibling," selected by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with the right match to be a donor. Eventually the sibling has to donate more to the older, sick sibling, but declines being used as a utilitarian tool any more.

The movie The Island was widely panned, but I really enjoyed it, not only for the action, but the intelligence behind the movie. People think they are the last remnants of society being protected underground, and the lucky ones win a lotto sending them to "the island", the last unspoiled place on Earth-when in reality they are clones being held as insurance for the rich in case they get liver failure from alcohol or are critically injured or ill.

Storytelling has power, as books from Pilgrim's Progress to Uncle Tom's Cabin to 1984 show. I applaud Karen Hancock for shining a light on issues that are looming in our future. There's a lot that can be said about this book, but this is the aspect that really caught my eye.

For more information on Bioethics and these issues, check out these links I've found in a little internet digging:

Breakpoint: The New Eugenics.

The Human Future.

The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. I liked this statement on "Enhancements".

The Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Your homework? Check out at least one of these links, and get a little more educated today!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CSFF Tour: Review - The Enclave

The Enclave, the latest book by Karen Hancock, takes us to a very near future in a techno-thriller vehicle. Cameron Reinhardt is a brilliant geneticist working at what appears to be a last chance job after a strange occurance at his past employer that leaves him on the verge of professional ruin. When he helps new hire Lacey McHenry after a strange encounter leaves her injured, he inserts himself into a cover-up for a mysterious conspiracy.

Cameron has the opportunity to join the elite inner circle of the Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute if he will only go along with the brushing aside of Lacey's incident. Oh, and losing his Christian faith would be a bonus. However, as Lacey gets drawn deeper into dangerous circumstances, Cameron must draw on past experiences he'd rather forget in order to survive and escape The Enclave.
Karen Hancock has the perfect pedigree to write a story like this. She has a degree in biology, she's written award-winning fantasy, and she deeply believes in the power of speculative fiction to tell stories that regular fiction can't really address.

The story starts with a bang, but then it slows some to develop the characters and set up the story further. It took a little while in these opening chapters to get really engaged in the plot and plight of the characters. Soon she hits her stride, and the book becomes a page-turner that is hard to put down.

The world of the KJ Longevity Institute, as well as other worlds, are displayed with real, believable details, without getting too heavy on the technical terms. Cameron and Lacey are given strong traits that drive and distinguish them, both positive and negative traits, that makes them seem like real people. Some of the antagonists in the scientific hierarchy are not portrayed with similar depth, and the conflict between the sides suffers a little from this.

There are many thematic issues addressed in the book: cloning, faith versus reason, overcoming the past, and materialistic pride among some others. It is a book that causes one to think, and that is a strong quality in The Enclave. I felt there were some loose ends by the finale, that there was a little too much tackled to fully resolve, and I was a little disappointed on how some things got short-changed.

Overall, I was pleased with the book and enjoyed it a lot. It has a lot of strong points, but it had potential to be a very powerful book if all of the points could have been properly developed. (To be fair, there are enough issues in the book it would be a daunting task to nail them all) I am perhaps a little tainted because her fantasy series Legends of the Guardian King was so well done that my expectations may have been too high. Still, it is a well-written, smart and suspenseful techno-thriller that doesn't just entertain, but stimulate. I can recommend this book to any fan of suspense or sci-fi infused conspiracy.
I'll have further thoughts on one of the main issues from the book tomorrow. In the meantime, check out my interview with Karen Hancock from yesterday, and see a list of other tours for more opinions and features.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Enclave - Interview with Karen Hancock

Time for another CSFF tour, and I'm excited to feature The Enclave, the latest book from Karen Hancock, of Return of the Guardian King fame. This book is set in modern times in a genetics research facility in the desert near Tucson. Researcher Cameron Reinhardt is glad to have a final chance to prove himself in his field at the exclusive Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute. Lacey McHenry is looking to move past tragedy in life and find a future. After a lab accident triggers a series of strange events, the two are forced together to confront an even greater mystery.

I'm very pleased to have an interview with Karen Hancock today. I'll follow with a review and other thoughts on Tuesday and Wednesday. Even though the interview is long, take time to read it, and you can find links to my other tourmates below it. For more information, check out her website and blog.
1. The Enclave as a science fiction/suspense novel is a departure from your last four books, the fantasy series The Guardian King. How was the process moving from a world of your own creation into more of "the real world"?

It really wasn’t all that much of a change. I had to do a lot of historical research for my Guardian-King fantasies and then a lot of thinking about the resultant world-building to ensure it all made sense within itself and within “how people operate” in general.

For The Enclave, I had to do research as well – on underground living, the construction of skyscrapers, research facilities, etc. I could draw perhaps a little more from my actual life experiences, but I did that a lot even in the fantasies (and in Arena as well) so the change wasn’t that noticeable.

The hardest part was the spiritual aspect, because when you start talking about Jesus directly, some people get riled; when you start bringing up scriptures, talking about doctrines, people say you’re preaching. There’s always a danger of getting carried away in that area, of course, but even if you don’t, you still may be accused of doing so. I just had to go with what I thought God was leading me to do and accept that some readers were not going to like it.

2. There's a lot of scientific detail in The Enclave. Will you describe your research behind the book?

My research for The Enclave was wide-reaching, as I alluded to above – archaeology, building construction, research publication protocols, mythology, Nephilim, Afghanistan, cults – in addition to the science. It helped that I have a degree in Biology. I also worked as an animal technician in college, so some of Lacey’s experiences were drawn from my own (the escape of the frogs, for example). However, though I studied genetics as part of my degree, the field has advanced tremendously in the interim and continues to do so at such a pace there’s a danger of one’s book being obsolete before it even gets into print. Therefore, to brush up on things I bought a copy of my friend Edward Willett’s Genetics Demystified to use as my base reference, and relied on the Internet for the rest.

One thing I reminded myself of constantly, though, was the fact that I was writing a novel about people involved in genetics research, not a genetics textbook. Readers were not going to want to wade through a lot of scientific technicalities, so I tried to keep my scientific details clear, spare and to the point – just enough to make my premises understandable and believable without bogging down the story. Whether I succeeded or not will probably depend on the individual reader.

The Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute that provides the setting for my book is based upon a real research facility north of Tucson, known as Biosphere 2, which was in the news in the 80s. Like KJ, the Biosphere had cultish roots and practices. Not only did I follow the controversial project through the local news reports (which I saved for later reference) I read participant Jane Poynter’s memoir, The Human Experiment: Two years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2. Poynter was one of the eight people who spent two years sealed inside it, and her book provided a wealth of information and ideas.

I also read a literary novel on cancer research (Intuition by Allegra Goodman) which not only gave me more information about life in a research facility, but provided illustration of how to integrate the scientific material into the story in an interesting way.

3. There's a lot in the media lately regarding new developments in cloning, stem cell research, and genetics. What does The Enclave have to speak about this?

The developments in those areas are opening the doors to us being able to literally recraft our own bodies and much of the life around us. Many are concerned now about how genetically altered food will affect our health, but there are also a wealth of innovations in the genetic alteration of animals, not only for food but for producing other things like medications, antibiotics and other substances that can be used in the manufacturing. There is talk of producing designer children and Michael Crichton's recent book, Next, even presents a number of grotesque possibilities of genetically altering organisms for use in advertising!

All of this recalls the events in Genesis 11 where instead of scattering as God had commanded them, the people gathered together to build a city and a tower that would reach into heaven. Were they trying to literally get into heaven or were they just going to make sure, in human power, that if God ever sent another flood they’d be ready to deal with it? I don’t know. Maybe both, but their motivations undeniably echo the temptation Satan put to the woman in the Garden to eat the fruit so she could “be like God.” (Which was in turn an echo of Satan’s own original motivation/sin to be like Him, as stated in Isaiah 14:13, 14)

What did God have to say about the unified activity of mankind on the plain of Shinar? “Behold they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”

With the explosion of advances in science we’re seeing these days, particularly in the field of genetics, we’re moving into a similar situation. The Enclave suggests that just because we are capable of doing whatever we purpose to do as a race, doesn’t mean that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s obviously not or God wouldn’t have put such a sudden and thorough stop to it the first time.

4. In reading your blog, it sounds like there was a real struggle in the process of writing The Enclave. Will you please share the take-away message you got from creating this book?

God’s the one who’s in control, not me, and He does things in His own way and timing. My job is not to try to guess where He’s going, not to try to take control and solve all the problems, but only to be available to His leading and at peace with the fact that it’s His gig, not mine.

5. The CSFF Tour has a lot of aspiring writers in its ranks. Do you have any advice for those of us attempting the writing life as well?

Read as much fiction as you can, in a variety of genres. Write a lot. Read as much as you can about how to write and how to write fiction. If you can find other writers who are also seeking to learn the craft, consider working with them in a critique exchange situation. It’s best to have a number of exchangees so you can see how others respond not only to your work, but to others’ work as well.

Beyond all that, though, seek first and foremost the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, not as unto men. Do not seek the favor of men but of God and do not let the pursuit of the goal of writing and getting published take you away from your relationship with Him. If you strive to please men, you will not be a bond-servant of Christ. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways and His version of success doesn’t often look like ours. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world, yet lose your soul in the process?

6. I know the writing process always takes the story in unexpected directions. What was one aspect of The Enclave that especially caught you by surprise?

The fact that the story ended up being more about Cameron Reinhardt than Lacey – though perhaps I should have guessed when the first two words of the story that came to me were his name. I had no idea of his military history when I started, especially not that he had problems with post traumatic stress syndrome. When the first flashback burst into the story I was completely blindsided.

7. Can you give us a sneak peak into what you have coming next?

My tentative next project is a science fiction novel I began developing right after Arena sold. Set on another world completely unrelated to our own, it has a Romanesque culture whose set-up echoes the seven churches of Revelation. Of course there will be action, adventure, romance, heroes, hidden identities, underground cities, aliens, terrorists… and faith.

Unless the Lord sends me off on another track, that’s the book for which I’ll soon be sitting down to assemble a proposal. I have started the world-building, developed a number of the characters and written several chapters. Because the second book of my contract was just a “second book” not a specific second book, Bethany House will have to approve the proposal before I can actually call it my “next” book. Stay tuned to my blog for further information.

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Heather R. Hunt
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Mike Lynch
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Elizabeth Williams

Saturday, July 18, 2009

CFBA Tour - Through the Fire

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Through The Fire Bethany House (July 1, 2009) by Shawn Grady.

Jason sez: I got this one too late to review for the tour, as the publisher had some trouble shipping to the tour. I am looking forward to a new author and will read and review soon.


Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Through the Fire is his debut novel.

Shawn has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.

Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University as a Theology undergrad before shifting direction to acquire an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College.

Shawn currently lives in Reno, Nevada, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.


Firefighting burns in Aidan O'Neill's blood. The son of a fireman, O'Neill has a sixth sense about fire and often takes dangerous risks. When one act of disobedience nearly gets a rookie killed, O'Neill is suspended. His weeks off are supposed to be a time to reflect but instead he escapes to Mexico, where another rash act of bravery actually kills him. But only for a few minutes.

Called back to Reno, he's now haunted by visions of hell and paralyzed in the face of fire. And at the worst time, because an arsonist is targeting Reno. With a growing love interest with one of the investigators complicating everything, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the fires creep ever closer.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Through The Fire, go HERE

Friday, July 17, 2009

CFBA Tour - Pirate Hunter

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Pirate Hunter, Bethany House (July 1, 2009) by Tom Morrisey.

Jason sez: I got this book too late to have finished in time to review for the tour. I will review it shortly, and so far I am greatly enjoying the first 6 chapters or so. Morrisey has a great back and forth tale going so far!


Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.

He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of six novels, including Wind River and In High Places. In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.


High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold

West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom....

Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...

The Hunt Is On!

Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE

Thursday, July 16, 2009

John C. Wright on Writing

I enjoy the wit and wisdom of spec fic writer John C. Wright. He was interviewed on his wife's blog about advice to writers. It seems I have some work to do...

Nostalgia and the Fanboy

I am a child of the 80's. I can't help it. From Cabbage Patch Dolls to Michael Jackson and parachute pants (thankfully I never owned those), from Bon Jovi and hair metal to Smurfs, it all resonates with me. Some is more dissonance, but I digress.

The marketers are smart. I have been amazed how so much from my childhood has been recycled now that *I* have kids. First it was the resurgence of Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising (I sound like the all-powerful Yogurt. Fear the Schwartz!!!). Now other childhood favorites are being brought back, first Transformers and soon G.I. Joe.

It has worked in many respects. I kept all my Joes and a few Star Wars items, and since I have 3 boys, it has been very easy to continue in that vein (my poor baby girl is already getting cast as Princess Leia). The boys think Star Wars is The Clone Wars, but I blame George Lucas for that. Overall, we have a very boyish household, with hordes of Clone Troopers and a veritable platoon of Joes.

Toys are one thing. The big screen debuts of these childhood icons is quite another. I know there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by rabid fanboys who were afraid their childhood would be ruined if Transformers or G.I. Joe is mishandled on celluloid.

I don't think I'm rabid (checks mirror, no foam, good sign...). I would love to see an epic production of these worlds. But I also look at things now from a Biblical worldview, and from someone who watches pop culture. I'm grown up (somewhat), so I do view these things differently.

I was massively disappointed in Transformers 1. The movie is marketed to kids, but it has some highly inappropriate content for the under 12 set, and the movie supposedly wasn't for its "target" audience, as it had a PG-13 label. Even on a technical, quality level it is a let down. The special effects are cool when visible, but so much of the action is rolling together, you can't tell which giant robot to root for.
After reading reviews for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, I didn't even bother seeing it. My understanding is that the director took the sexualization and inappropriate content to an even higher level, and that there is little plot. Now, you won't get Shakespeare with a yellow Camaro that turns into a robot, but it sounds like there wasn't much to recommend it. Again, it is so marketed to kids that I get really frustrated when the producers make it so unfriendly for kids. Of course, it is the blockbuster of the summer and I know kids who have seen it, so I am likely in the minority. As usual.

This makes me dread G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra coming out in August. There's been bad vibes for the movie all along, and in watching the trailers some aspects make me cring (accelerator suit - I'm lookin' at you). My concern is more in items that often go unnoticed - what's the prevailing worldview, what type of humor do they go for, language. As far as language and humor, I would be quite upset if they played like Transformers did, with a lot of coarse talk and jokes, since G.I. Joe is also being marketed to kids under 13 (so far there's no rating for it). I've heard that it wasn't made like that, but we'll see in a few weeks.

The worldview has already been challenged too. G.I. Joe is quintessentially American, but even though it was fairly multicultural even in the 80's, it didn't seem to stand the test of pluralism in the 21 century. Initially it was said that G.I. Joe was centered in Brussels, Belgium, which had the fanboys up in arms (apparantly this is gone). Some characters have been changed to different races. But how will the patriotic, positive vibe from G.I. Joe hold up in these times of America being less popular internationally, and our cynical post-modern viewpoints? How much do values of courage, honor, and self-sacrifice hold up? These are just some of the questions I will be asking when watching the movie.

I realize it is summer popcorn entertainment. A movie based off of 80's war toys isn't the best vehicle for philosophising, but worldview is everywhere. So maybe I rant a little here (maybe???), but I will not shut off my brain just because Snake Eyes is finally on the big screen (though he does look awesome!).

Yo Joe!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Odds and Ends, No. 67

A bonafide Jason sighting!

June was a hopping month, no doubt about it. Between home and work, I didn't have much sit-down time for blogging. Didn't really have much thinking time to write something interesting.

Hopefully July will be better. It should, but a book I should be reading by now isn't here yet, so that's not a good sign.

In lieu of originality, here are some interesting reads from the Net:

Brandilyn Collins: How to stab someone at a dinner party. Natch.

Mary DeMuth: Should Christ-followers read fiction?

Mike Duran: Dracula as Christian fiction?